James Wentworth Day, Papers

Object Title

James Wentworth Day, Papers

James Wentworth Day, Papers

Reference

DAY

Level

Collection

Extent

31 archive boxes, 4 large archive boxes

Access Conditions

Open access

Administrative / Biographical History

James Wentworth Day was a British writer and occasional broadcaster, firmly of the Agrarian Right school and essentially a High Tory. He lived for most of his life in East Anglia, an area which would always be his first love; he had a particular interest in wildfowling, and at one stage owned Adventurers' Fen, a piece of marshland in Cambridgeshire. He was also a ghost hunter, and wrote several books about this interest. He is possibly most famous for his journey around the farms of East Anglia on horseback during World War II, as detailed in his book Farming Adventure (later reprinted under the title Wartime Ride), while for many years he was closely associated with the East Anglian magazine.

Born in Exning, Suffolk he was educated at Newton College, Newton Abbot and Cambridge before seeing active service in World War I. He became a journalist after his war service, notably on the Express newspapers and Country Life (as well as other sporting papers). He edited the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. He also became personal assistant to Lucy, Lady Houston and for a time shared some of her extreme ideas in supporting Benito Mussolini, although he was highly suspicious of Adolf Hitler. He became a propaganda adviser to the Egyptian government in 1938 and spent the Second World War as a correspondent in France and as Near East correspondent of the BBC until he was invalided in 1943.

In 1950 and 1951 he was an unsuccessful Conservative candidate for the constituency of Hornchurch, now in Greater London but then in Essex, and often spoke on behalf of the Tory cause at elections. He worked for a number of British newspapers, held senior positions at The Field and Country Life, and was both owner and editor of the Saturday Review. Wentworth Day had a confrontation with Labour chairman Harold Laski in 1945, putting questions to him at a meeting in Newark which led to Laski seemingly endorsing socialism through violent revolution. As such he was an important witness in the Laski libel action of 1946. On the 6th November 1968 he addressed the Conservative Monday Club on several issues commencing with a defence of the House of Lords following Harold Wilson's White Paper for its reform. He also attacked 'unrealistically high' Death Duties and condemned land speculators, saying that it was to the shame of the Conservative Party that they had never implemented an Agricultural Charter. He condemned the Labour Government's Agricultural Training Board which, he said was 'vehemently opposed by the majority of farmers' and which contained on its board of twelve, three men from Transport House. 'What', he asked, 'was their knowledge of agriculture and what was their purpose on the board'.

Wentworth Day briefly achieved minor fame through television in 1957 and 1958, when he appeared as the resident reactionary 'rent-a-quote' (to use a term coined more recently) in Daniel Farson's Associated-Rediffusion series, most famously Out of Step and People in Trouble. Farson made it clear that he did not agree with the sentiments, which were often perceived as racist and xenophobic even in the 1950s (in the People in Trouble programme on mixed marriages Wentworth Day referred to 'coffee-coloured little imps' and claimed that black people must be 'inferior' because 'a couple of generations ago they were eating each other'), but he usually chuckled along with them and ended them with a remark along the lines of 'I completely disagree with you, but at least you say what you really feel'. However, Wentworth Day was soon dropped from Farson's programmes after he claimed, while contributing to a programme on transvestism, that all homosexuals should be hanged. Farson, himself a homosexual, was afraid Wentworth Day would land him in prison and insisted that the programme on transvestism should be scrapped, theoretically because the Independent Television Authority would ban it anyway. Despite his increasingly outmoded views on racial matters, Wentworth Day continued to write until shortly before his death, which came very soon after two Daniel Farson programmes in which he expressed his opinions had been repeated on the fledgling Channel 4 (clips of Wentworth Day's comments were later shown in Victor Lewis-Smith's Buygones strand in Club X and TV Offal). Wentworth Day also held a set of views in support of traditional farming methods and in opposition to pesticides; these were expressed in his 1957 book Poison On The Land.

In his early years Wentworth Day had several unsuccessful engagements as well as two failed marriages to Helen Alexia Gardom (1925-1934) and Nerina Shute (1936-1943). He married New Zealander Marion McLean in 1943 and the couple had one daughter together, remaining married until his death. He died in Ingatestone, Essex aged 83&&&[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Wentworth_Day]

Associations

Creator(s) James W. Day